Old Power Plant building take-down ongoing at UM

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

While it may appear the demolition of the Old Power Plant where William Faulkner did his late-night crafting has halted, the building is still coming down.

University of Mississippi Architect Ian Banner said the historians have slowed down the building’s removal process so they can study and record every single square inch that is relevant to Faulkner, the school and the city’s history.

“Taking it down is a learning and recording process,” he said. “We are recording as we go. I have been working very closely with Dr. Jay Watson, a Faulkner scholar. Jay and I have been going through the building quite meticulously so we can learn from it and have records.”

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Currently, the experts have reached the basement and are readying to take down external walls and expose the bottom floor so it can be photographed.

Banner said they have fished out an old lawn mower from the basement, but have not found anything of super significance thus far.

“I’ve been under that building and crawled deep down in the basement and at the moment, until we can get the concrete floor removed, it’s sort of difficult to understand what’s going on there. But there’s nothing of any surprise at this time.”

The two buildings around the Old Power Plant were taken down fairly quickly, Banner said, because they did not have tremendous historical significance. And while the now-vacant 1908 building was where Faulkner wrote “As I Lay Dying,” has more significance, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved it coming down.

“We did a great deal of research on this and shared everything with MDAH and they said they didn’t have any reservations with us removing the building,” Banner said. “That decision, after much research and much discussion, came after determining the building had some structural difficulties. History hadn’t been particularly kind to it. Nevertheless, after much discussion, the university administration made the decision to move on and take it down.”

The buildings are coming down to create a commemorative space for people to sit, walk, relax, learn and much more in the shadow of the new STEM science building and Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

“This is perhaps the most exciting thing of all,” Banner said, “is the future of what’s going to happen next. It becomes a place for people to sit to remember that location and its importance.”

Banner said the space will connect the new science building with the north end zone project at the stadium and the long thin, landscape space known as Ford Way.

“That space will connect the Grove to the stadium,” Banners said. “It will be a long, thin, landscaped space that will be available for everyone to use 365 days a year. It will be a place for students, faculty and staff to get from A to B. It will be a significant space on game day because the Walk of Champions will go right through it. It will connect from the south side of the Grove all the way to the north end zone.”

Banner said they currently are working with landscape architects to make the space a beautiful area to remember for people of all interests. It will be lined with trees, have benches and more.

“All three things will be linked together by the Walk of Champions — science, history and athletics. It’s a super way of looking at it,” Banner said. “What I love about it is on any day of the year, no matter who you are, there’s something there for you whether you’re singing because your football team is about to win or you want to go reflect in the garden with a book or you’re going to learn in the STEM building about math and engineering. Or if you don’t want to do anything, you’re just going for a walk.”

The plan is for the building to be documented, down and the commemorative space in place by the summer or fall of 2018.

“It think it’s going to be a really vibrant space,” Banner said.